By on October 1, 2014

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On October 3rd, 1984, American Motors announced that the Renault Espace would be imported to North America as an AMC product. 30 years later, the Escpace’s minivan heritage will come to an end.

The Espace is to Europeans what the Chrysler minivans are to us – the first example of a modern, mass-produced minivan that set the standard for the entire segment. A front-drive, neatly packaged three-row people mover that proved to be far more modern than the Fiat Multipla or Volkswagen vans.

At this week’s Paris Auto Show, the Espace will be revealed, after undergoing a radical transformation. No longer a minivan, the Espace is now being marketed as a crossover. No more sliding doors or the distinctly French two-box profile that was a trademark of the Espace. The new version is a bling-bling pseudo-CUV with shades of CR-V in the D-pillar.

For Renault minivan customers, the Scenic will still be available. But the Espace, like the wildly successful Captur, is an attempt to give consumers more of what they want – in this case, crossovers – but with the people carrying abilities of the minivan (or MPV) body style.

 

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26 Comments on “The First Minivan Becomes The Next Crossover...”


  • avatar
    petezeiss

    What a sick, craven travesty of what was once a superbly practical vehicle. Must everything be decapitated today?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I concur.

      That being said, if you told me “Hey this is a new Renault,” and I didn’t know the history of the Espace, it LOOKS good! Reminds me of a Ford in some ways.

      Europeans don’t want vans just like Americans don’t really want vans. I’d be interested to see Espace sales figures for western Europe vs. sales of the Dodge vans in the US.

      Curious – does this sort of default mean the Quest goes away soon? Europe doesn’t get the Quest, I don’t believe.

    • 0 avatar

      After the JDM Odyssey went to sliding doors this was my next favorite minivan when I move to New Zealand.

      Big wheels and low roofs win again, and break every pragmatist’s heart a bit.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    1) still looks like a minivan to me.
    2) looking at old espace images on-line, most of the old models don’t look like they have sliding rear doors.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike N.

      I never understood the point of a minivan without the sliding rear door (first gen. Odyssey, MB R class, Espace come to mind).

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      I wanted to post the same thought about the sliding doors. To my knowledge the Espace never had them, and this new iteration is not terribly different to what the vehicle has been from the beginning, albeit a bit more form over function now.

      Still, I like it. And I kinda hope it ends up stateside with a Nissan badge someday, maybe as a Murano XL or similar.

    • 0 avatar

      If you see the ground clearance, real hood, it is not what the Espace originally was. Sliding doors I think is more a Chrysler minivan feature. What characterized the Espace was the same-ish ride height of a car, vestigial hood, FWD and car like ride. Now, it’s been put on stilts, has a hood. And Renault is calling it a CUV.

      As Derek pointed out in the article linked, fine article in which he foresaw what is happening here, the CUV is obliterating other kinds of vehicles. First the station wagon, now the minivan and soon the SUV. Of course, depending on market, station wagons, hatches, sedans, SUVs will survive, but soon all will have less market participation than previously as the CUV becomes the hegemonic car shape and construction.

      For a discussion of the minivan and the History of the Espace, all you have to do is write www thetruthaboutcars com/2014/06/dispatches-do-brasil-renault-celebrates-30-years-of-the-minivan/

      This is the most important news out of the Paris Salon, the demise of the minivan and the move of the CUV to the forefront of automotive tastes.

      BTW, no more V6s either for the Espace. Seems like Vs are going the way of the dinosaur, or minivan…

  • avatar
    lon888

    I’m just glad you reminded everyone that this is THE original minivan – not that damn Chrysler thing. I’ve gotten into some serious arguments with some MOPAR boneheads about this. I’d show them the Road & Track write-ups and they would just huff and grunt and then stomp away. Sore losers.

  • avatar
    hifi

    I have great memories of driving around France in an Espace back in 1990. It was a futuristic stylish ride that wasn’t embarrassing like a Chrysler minivan. Oddly, Chrysler minivans were also fairly common in France and were often compared to the Espace. I really don’t think it matters all that much whether they call it a “crossover” or not. It doesn’t matter if the doors swing versus slide. It’s still functionally and visually the same.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    You say tomato, I say to-ma-to.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    Its well handsome to my eyes. Someone mentioned the Mercedes R class earlier, if only the R Class had Japanese electronics it would have been perfect.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    A pet peeve of mine is motojournos referring to minivans as “people movers.” Because many of them did not move people well. I am thinking of the high floors in the second and third rows of many minivans, the Espace, and the first GM minivans, to name a few. A floor can be at least as low as the vehicle’s sills, no? But many of them had floors much higher than the sills. once you add the low seats (to provide more headroom) the back seat riders are left with their thighs unsupported and their knees flopping around in the air. Not a way this people wants to be moved. The Toyota and Lexus utes based on the Land Cruiser also share this design flaw.
    BTW, I don’t believe any Espace ever had sliding rear doors.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I think it’s gorgeous, too bad there’s nothing in North America you can buy that looks like it. Looks a lot like the Hyundai i40 Tourer

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    And this is how an Isuzu Axiom looks on its 3rd generation…

    BTW, +1 on Hobbes’ friend.


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